MANILA- The Department of Justice (DOJ) defended on Friday its resolution dismissing the criminal complaint against several former customs officials in connection with the P6.4-billion “shabu” shipment that slipped past the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in May.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he was willing to face any probe into the matter, even as he said critics “should read the complaint and the subject resolution… before any person makes any comment.”
“We are ready and willing to face anybody to justify the DOJ Resolution,” Aguirre said.
He stressed that the complainants could still file a motion for reconsideration “where they could cure some defects in their complaint and/or give additional evidence to strengthen their case against those persons not indicted.”
Assistant State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes, chair of the DOJ investigating panel, and panel member Associate Prosecution Attorney II Joan Garcia, explained that complainant Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) did not make the necessary allegations against respondent former BOC Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, former BOC Directors Milo Maestrecampo and Neil Anthony Estrella; intelligence officers Joel Pinawin and Oliver Valiente; Manila International Container Port District collector lawyer Vincent Phillip Maronilla; Customs employees Alexandra Ventura, Randolph Cabansag, Dennis Maniego, Dennis Cabildo and John Edillor; and, Atty. Jeline Maree Magsuci.
The panel also said there was no evidence presented against these respondents.
In the 95-page resolution of the case, the panel said “ t]here was, in fact, no mention of any specific acts or omissions by which the
above-named respondents have committed the imputed violations of law.”
“Thus, PDEA’s complaint failed to comply with the burden of proof required under the circumstances. In this jurisdiction, it is a settled rule that when the evidence is consistent with a finding of innocence and also compatible with a finding of guilt, then the evidence is at equipoise and does not fulfill the test of moral certainty to support a conviction.
“Consequently, the decision should be against the party with the burden of proof,” the resolution read.
The charges against several respondent National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officials, who joined the BOC in its raid after the subject “shabu,” were also dropped by the DOJ.
However, probable cause was found to indict fixer Mark Taguba; businessman Kenneth Dong; Hongfei Logistics Group of Companies chairman Chen Ju Long (alias Richard Tan or Richard Chen); businessman Li Guang Feng alias Manny Li; Eirene May Tatad, owner of EMT Trading; Taiwanese nationals Chen I-Min and Jhu Ming Jyun, Hongfei's Chen Rong Huan; and, three unidentified individuals.
The justice chief's comments followed criticisms from several senators.
The DOJ on Wednesday dismissed the complaint filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency against several customs officials due to the agency's failure to state the involvement of Faeldon and other officials in the smuggling incident.